Explore the Strategy of Agricultural Marketing
Centuries ago, you ate what was grown locally.
If you had the money, there might be some exceptions: dried fruits, wines, spices, maybe some olive oil. However, for the most part, you ate what you or your close neighbors grew—provided the rains came, the harvest was good, and there were no natural disasters to sweep it away. If you didn’t grow your own food, you probably knew who did, buying it from them personally at the village market.
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Then came the modern agricultural revolution, and suddenly a greater variety of foods were available from around the world. Improvements in technology and transportation produced food surpluses and enabled people to obtain food from the furthest reaches of the globe.
Today, instead of buying most of our food from farmers, we buy from supermarkets that have gathered selections of food from thousands of farms from around the world (See also Shopper Marketing). This is excellent news for the consumer, but a challenge for the farmer, who now must compete in a global market instead of a local one.
Our food choices today are unprecedented, but they are also increasingly complex. Consumers can buy food from other countries—but are they better off buying food grown locally to help the economy? Should a farmer use environmentally responsible practices? What about genetically modified foods? “Organic” foods?
Such questions offer farmers many opportunities, as they attempt to differentiate their produce from similar produce in the market. But such a task depends upon successful communication with customers and distributors, as they try to market their products better than the competetion.
Agricultural marketing techniques are used in every corner of "agribusiness," including small farms, corporate farms, and collectives; distributors; manufacturers of farm equipment, pesticides, and genetic enhancements for crops and livestock; feed and seed sellers; and more. Additionally, there are also government agencies which monitor and direct agribusiness practices.
The ultimate target for agricultural marketing practices are those who actually buy and eat the farm produce (See also B2C Marketing). As this consumer base represents nearly everyone, marketing campaigns often focus on one segment of the population at a time. People from different regions, as well as different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, tend to purchase different foods.
Thus, campaigns for “organic” food, as well as those touting “environmentally responsible” practices, are more effective among the affluent than among the poor. (See also Marketing Organic Products) Campaigns promoting local produce (and by implication, the local economy) are more effective among the middle class. Since food consumption varies a great deal among ethnic groups, other campaigns leverage products’ uses in ethnic cooking or as substitutes for traditional ingredients.
Marketing is fundamentally about communicating information to increase demand for a product or service. Effectively gathering and using information in agricultural marketing poses some unique challenges.
For example, the most important information signal in the marketplace is price; however, agriculture is often subject to price controls, and thus the wrong message can be communicated to customers. Market analysts must seek additional sources of information about supply and demand, and stay aware of what efforts are being made by companies and countries to increase supplies of agricultural products.
A second challenge for agricultural marketing involves product branding. Similar or competitive products often go by different names. Some campaigns focus on the issue of naming a product, establishing its brand in the minds of consumers.
Effective agricultural marketing campaigns are developed with multiple targets, including consumers, restaurants, supermarkets, and government industries. (See also Industrial Marketing)
In fact, some states have mandated marketing programs; that is, producers are required to pay the state for its marketing efforts on the industry’s behalf. The state engages in generic marketing instead of brand marketing, aiming to increase the consumer demand for a given product (such as potatoes from Idaho) instead of a particular brand. The state also issues requirements regarding quality, size, and packaging of products, standardizing many agricultural products between different producers.
Sales and Marketing Representatives work in a variety of agribusiness companies, promoting agricultural inputs (such as seed and fertilizer) and services (such as soil sampling).
What do they do?
Sales and marketing representative usually have a bachelor’s degree, but in some cases may have only an assiociates’ degree. Agriculture and marketing majors are preferred.
Public Relations Specialists, Communications Managers, and Lobbyists work to inform their target audience about the virtues and needs of their business, as well as those of their business’ products.
What do they do?
Public relations specialists and communication managers need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, usually in public relations or communications. Political science is a useful minor. Successful lobbyists may come from their ranks, or the ranks of marketers, buyers, and managers; such jobs also require at least a bachelor’s degree, typically in marketing and agroscience.
Agricultural Marketing Specialists work for government agencies, promoting farm and commodity interests in their state or region.
What do they do?
Agricultural marketing specialists need at least a bachelor’s degree, with a major in marketing, business administration, or agricultural science; as well as several years’ experience in marketing.
Effective agricultural marketing requires the ability to analyze complex market data, use that data to identify changes in demand, and develop persuasive arguments for multiple audiences in order to increase demand.
Fundamentally, marketing revolves around understanding and communicating with people. In agricultural marketing, this includes people from a number of different groups, including farmers, consumers, and legislators—all with wildly different goals and concerns. Marketing and communications courses in marketing degree programs prepare you to build persuasive cases for each of these different groups.
Classes in economics and finance will help prepare you to properly analyze economic data. Agricultural marketing specialists must be aware of market issues particular to agriculture, such as commodities markets, futures trading, government subsidies, and the impacts of farm debt. Classes in law will prepare you for a field flooded with regulations.
A minor in agricultural science is also important for a career in this niche. Agronomy classes will equip you to better understand both the components of the market, and the people involved.
To learn more about what a marketing school can do for you, request information from schools with degrees in marketing, and sow the seeds for your own future career.